What Is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is the health condition / disease which arrises as a result of a decrease in Bone Mineral Density (BMD) and Bone Mass.
Osteopenia does not occur overnight, it is a slow process. As we age our bone loses some of its thickness and density, this is a normal part of ageing. We usually achieve Peak Bone Density (the highest your BMD will ever be) in our 20s or 30s. From then on our bone will slowly lose its strength and density. For females this rate of loss is accelerated after menopause. Osteopenia is often considered a precursor to osteoporosis or early stage osteoporosis.
If left untreated / unchallenged, osteopenia can develop into osteoporosis. They are both conditions affecting our BMD. Osteopenia and Osteoporosis can be suspected following a fracture or by looking at lifestyle factors and can then be diagnosed / confirmed via a DEXA scan. A DEXA scan will provide you with a T-score which compares your BMD to an average or expected BMD for your age and weight. A T-score of -1 to -2.5 is considered Osteopenia and a score below -2.5 is considered Osteoporosis.
There are many risk factors for developing Osteopenia
- High Dose Steroids and Other Medications / Treatments such as Radiation Therapy.
- Secondary to other Medical Issues such as Overactive Thyroid or Parathyroid.
- Women are more likely to Develop Osteoporosis versus men.
- Family History of Osteoporosis.
- Early Menopause (Before 45).
- Loss of Period not Due to Pregnancy.
- Low BMI.
- Low Peak Bone Density.
- Not Regularly Exercising.
It is estimated that 300,000 people in Ireland are living with Osteoporosis. Early detection and prevention are the key to managing Osteopenia and preventing Osteporosis, and that is how Physiotherapy can help.
What Exercise is good for Osteopenia?
Weight Bearing Exercise is the #1 type of exercise for Osteopenia. Only when we use our bones and load them do they maintain and build more bone, not when we rest. Resistance training is the easiest and safest form of weight bearing exercise.
Whilst aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling and swimming are great for our heart and lungs, they do not particularly challenge our bones or our muscles. Resistance training is vital in the treatment and prevention of Osteopenia.
Deadlifts, Squats, Step Ups, Farmers Carrys, Push Ups, Overhead Presses - these are just some of the many exercises which can help challenge our bone and our muscle. Impact activities such as tennis, running, skipping, weightlifting, can also help us to strengthen our bones and prevent.
When it comes to finding the right weight for these exercises the key is to start small and build. The first most important thing is to have good technique. Then to slowly increase your weights or your reps each week / month once you are happy that your body is handling the new exercises. There are no 'quick fixes' when it comes to Osteopenia, we are aiming to engage in lifelong exercise, therefore you do not need to increase the intensity too quickly.
Is Physiotherapy an Osteopenia Treatment?
Physiotherapy is a vital part of the treatment / management of Osteopenia, and the prevention of Osteoporosis.
As mentioned above, early detection and prevention are key. It is much easier to start a progressive strength and exercise program now than it will be in 5 or 10 years time.
Your doctor or consultant can help you manage the dietary and pharmacological side of Osteopenia. This may include supplementing Calcium and Vitamin D. Changing your medications. Completing other medical tests to see if your Osteopenia is secondary to other medical issues. This can slow the rate at which you are losing bone mass and density.
Exercise, and particularly resistance training and impact exercise, are the key to promote bone maintenance and new bone formation. This is how physiotherapy can help with Osteopenia treatment and management. By finding the correct resistance exercises for you and by showing you exactly how to complete and progress them. Furthermore, physiotherapy can help improve muscle strength, balance and co-ordination, all of which can decrease your risk of falls and fracture.
As we say at our RAPID Master's Program - Use It Or Lose It!
RAPID Master's Class
At RAPID we have created a Master's Class for over 55's to strength train and exercise in a safe environment. The class is physiotherapist-led and involved progressive resistance training. Many of our members have Osteopenia and Osteoporosis and report having more energy, more strength and more confidence since joining the class. If you are looking for an Exercise Class for Older Adults in Dublin we are here to help!
We at RAPID are experts when it comes to dealing with pain and injury. With over 200 5-Star Reviews you can be sure you are in good hands!
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